Ben Millburn – Sunglass Moustache
Recorded at Austin’s famed Church House studio. Sunglass Moustache has as memorable of a sound as I’ve heard on any release in recent memory. The production merits are apparent in the first song “I Feel Something” and never lapse for the entirety of this eleven song collection. The first track resulted from an improvisational jam and you can hear a lot of that in the song, but it’s remarkable how a presumably disparate handful of ideas are so seamlessly brought together. Ben Millburn’s vocal strengths are deceptive; there’s a chameleon like quality to how he can transform his voice and strike various emotive tones. “Mr. Tuxedo” isn’t so much performed as it emerges into being, full born, and seemingly sprung from the head of a psychedelized Minerva. Guitar is much heavier here than we heard with “I Feel Something”, but ultimately cut from the same cloth.
“Call Me King” mixes an array of blues-infused melodies with an even sharper melodic sound than the previous song. It’s a heated sort of style affected for tunes like this, throbbing and threatening to escape your speakers, and the production effects bring considerable atmosphere to the track. Millburn deserves big props for artistically freeing himself yet keeping each of these eleven songs, no matter how off the beaten path, aligned to some kind of comprehensible trajectory. Sunglass Moustache takes a surprisingly soulful turn with the track “ABCD” and the desperate lyrical tone takes on new meaning thanks to the song’s melodic characteristics. Millburn’s singing is especially good, but I like how he uses backing vocals better here than anywhere else on Sunglass Moustache.
“Isayuletit” has a steady, menacing amble from the first, largely acoustic based, but the electric guitars take over more and more as the song progresses. It eventually erupts into full blown six string histrionics and the convincing riffing has a quality unlike anything else before it. This is one of my favorite numbers on the album because of how much it mixes up listener’s expectations yet comes out with music firmly in keeping with everything preceding and following it. “The Beat” is another surprisingly soulful track with a palpable retro sound, but nonetheless shares the same theatrical production job latching onto each of the other ten songs.
“Sunglass Moustache” is the boldest musical moment.
Millburn experiments with a handful of “voices” on this title song, including volume swells, and it never comes off as a forced or strained exercise in pretension. There’s some voiceover passages tacked onto the arrangement and some scat singing throughout the song, but this is largely instrumental, one of a few such tracks on the album. Some Kurt Vile comes through on the song “For You”, but this is more similarity of sensibility rather than influence because Millburn owns it with his own distinct vibe rather than copping Vile’s feel. It’s the last lyrical driven tune on the collection and the production manipulates Millburn’s voice in a variety of ways without ever sounding too affected. Sunglass Moustache is a doozy; there’s very little Ben Millburn fails to musically touch on with this eleven song album and it makes for some of 2018’s most engaging work.